Military Leadership

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-by Matt Leedham

I had incredible opportunity to go to the Pentagon yesterday, get a nice tour of the facility, and a behind-the-scenes briefing from two of America’s finest soldiers.

Toward the end of the tour, we deviated from the normal path of visitors and headed down the Hall of the Chiefs of Staff of the Army. It was noticeably different than any other hallway of the Pentagon. This one was lined with mahogany walls and large, ornately framed portraits of all 35 Chiefs of Staff of the US Army (36 and 37 are on their way). The pace slowed significantly as we looked at images of Dwight D Eisenhower, George C Marshall, and Douglas MacArthur.

We were then led into a briefing room that was oddly wide and short with 30 feet of television monitors in front of us. We all sat on one side and awaited out first presenter, Colonel Macintyre. The Colonel reports to a Lieutenant General (3-stars) and word on the street is that he will likely earn his first star and become a Brigadier General soon.

Colonel Macintyre talked about Army values. He stressed the importance of instilling values in soldiers from the first day they are welcomed by the “reception” command at boot camp. The Army values can be summed up using the acronym LeaDeRSHIP:

  1. Loyalty
  2. Duty
  3. Respect
  4. Selfless Service
  5. Honor
  6. Integrity
  7. Personal Courage

Colonel Macintyre stressed that before joining the army, one’s life is primarily centered around themselves. With the Army values, and consistent training and reinforcement, soldiers quickly realize that they are part of something bigger than themselves.

What a great parallel to business core values. You see, to the Army, their values are not just on some plaque that hangs on the wall of a conference room that no one ever looks at. They are the cornerstone of every thought, decision, and action of our military. Lives, quite literally, hang in the balance.

I hope your business doesn’t have to make life or death decisions on a regular basis, but using values to make decisions and guide strategy is essential. With values, it’s no longer about the individual but about the group moving in unison toward a goal.

Our next presenter was Major General Anderson (2 stars). This guy is the epitome of a battle-hardened, tough-nosed warrior of the U.S. Army. His presence immediately captured our attention. The Major General’s role is to essentially know everything that is going on with the U.S. Army. He is the operations specialist that knows where every division, brigade, unit, and soldier is at any minute around the world. He can immediately tell you the operating status of equipment and personnel anywhere. He also coordinates domestic efforts and responses of the Army and the Coast Guard in times of natural disasters. The Major General has a very good pulse of what is happening anywhere in the world at any given moment.

He’ll be going on his third tour of duty soon in Iraq, where he’ll be given a large swath of land to oversee, including 20-30,000 troops. You could immediately tell that this man has had the command of thousands of troops in his day. His voice was scruffy and biting, reminding me of a junkyard dog. His wit and humor were equally sharp and coupled with his demeanor, made him a rather intimidating man to converse with.

My colleague asked a question about how he coordinates with other agencies regarding communications and intelligence. After he answered, she followed up with, “And then what do you do with all of that information?”

He crossed his arms, leaned in a little, and said, “What do we do with it? We kill people!”

There was silence in the room. All of us afraid he was about to carry out that exact action right then and there.

Then he cracked a barely noticeably smirk. That was enough to lighten the room and we all started laughing.

“Of course we don’t just kill people,” he said. “We make strategic decisions about where to send resources.”

Phew! That was close…

What was noticeable about the Major General was his outstanding confidence in himself and his team. He has innumerable moving parts to keep up with and relies on superb information and sound advice. Speaking with some soldiers later who don’t even report to Major General Anderson, he was described as a phenomenal leader. They told me how adept he was at analyzing complex scenarios and taking decisive action that accounted for 2nd, 3rd, and 4th levels of responses. Essentially, he was always a few moves ahead of any situation. His people trusted him, and he trusted himself. To tie this back to the Energy Leadership, what was being described to me sounded very much like Level 6 – the ability to synthesize information and experiences and see them in totality rather than independently.

Again, what a great parallel to business leadership. Are you able to analyze complex environments and take decisive action that accounts for all possible outcomes? Imagine how employees and colleagues would respond to that level of leadership. What actions can you take to build the confidence in yourself to lead this way?

In closing, an expression of gratitude: I am quite fortunate and blessed to be served and protected by such capable and value-driven individuals. They are truly American heroes, and represent thousands of others around the world that are equally driven to protect our freedom. I am grateful for their service to our nation, and the sacrifice many of them endure so that I may live a life of prosperity and choice.

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